Green Enchiladas Recipe
We’ve all seen gorgeous photos in the cooking magazines of enchiladas swimming in pools of sauce, or Mexican restaurant orders covered in copious amounts of sauce and cheese. But for many people, their efforts at home prove less successful: tortillas falling apart, soaking up all the sauce, and results that don’t look anything like the glossy magazines. (Spoiler: most of the food in the magazines is prepared by food stylists, who are paid to make it look great, not accurate.) Traditional, authentic enchiladas can also be time consuming and more than a little fattening. This recipe, which uses pre-cooked pork or chicken, is quick and easy enough you could make it for a weeknight supper, my methods will help avoid some of the common enchilada problems and pitfalls, and help you eliminate *some* of the calories and fat.
Before someone looks over this recipe and says “But you didn’t even use a pressure cooker for this recipe!”, I’ll tell you up front that I’ll be including a number of recipes here that don’t use the pressure cooker per se, but as in this case, use the shredded pork from my Pressure Cooker Pork Shoulder Recipe. In my opinion, this recipe tastes best with shredded pork shoulder, but you could use pressure cooked chicken or turkey, or even use leftover roast chicken, pork loin, pork chops, or a mixture of same. For a truly economical enchilada meal, pick bits of leftover meat off a chicken carcass, dice up that extra pork chop from dinner, and store the meat in the freezer until you have enough for enchiladas. To stretch your meat even further, to make it more nutritious, and reduce calories, you can add a cup of pressure cooked beans to the enchilada filling. (You can pressure cook a larger batch of beans in advance, freeze it, then add small amounts to dishes such as this.)
PRESSURE COOKING TIP: If you don’t have any pre-cooked meat, and want to use shredded pork for this recipe, see my Pork Shoulder Recipe for instructions. If you want chicken, you can pressure cook mixed cut up chicken parts for 6 minutes at high pressure, 1 cup of water, using natural pressure release. If you want turkey, I recommend dark meat: you can pressure cook either 2 turkey legs or a turkey thigh for 25 minutes with 1 cup of water, using natural pressure release. You can also use chicken or turkey straight from the freezer, just add a minute or two to the timer to compensate. Not only will your poultry be cooked in record time, but pressure cooking has the added benefit of rendering the meat soft, moist, and extremely easy to pick off the bones.
2 cups shredded pork shoulder/chicken/turkey
1 – 28 ounce (794 grams) can green enchilada sauce
16 corn tortillas
1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
1 teaspoon Ground Coriander
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon coarse kosher salt (optional)
¼ teaspoon coarse ground pepper
1 4 or 7 oz (113 / 198 g) can diced green chiles (optional)
1 teaspoon roasted garlic (optional)
¼ cup sautéed onions (optional)
1 cup pre-cooked pinto beans (optional)
Package of queso fresco or shredded Mexican cheese
Mexican crema or cilantro leaf, for garnish (optional)
Electric pressure cooker (if you’ve no pre-cooked meat)
Small bowl for mixing enchilada filling
Small skillet to warm tortillas and heat sauce
Wide, rigid spatula
ENCHILADA SAUCE: My favorite brand of green enchilada sauce is Hatch, but it can be quite expensive, if you’re not careful. If you have a Food 4 Less near you, especially if there is a Latino / Hispanic population in the area, sign up for their email sales flyer notifications, and check the prices weekly. They’ll periodically put the enchilada sauce on sale for a good price, and I buy in bulk then. If that’s not available, my second favorite brand is Las Palmas. You can usually get it on sale at Smart & Final before Cinco de Mayo and New Years.
CUMIN, CORIANDER, OTHER SPICES: I find the best place to get good deals on spices is Smart & Final, the second best is Penzeys. Smart & Final sells to restaurants, so they sell spices in bulk at reasonable prices. I never buy mixed seasonings, I always buy individual spices, and mix them up myself. If you don’t want to buy in that kind of quantity, in spite of the savings, both Safeway / Vons and Ralphs sell a bargain brand of spices, Delish, that has a limited number of spices (though you’ll have to hunt for it, they keep it well away from the full price spices). And Vons periodically has “buy one, get one free” sales on herbs and spices.
TORTILLAS: Never buy tortillas in the grocery store. They charge way too much for way too few. Buy in the bulk packages (72 or 80 tortillas) at either Costco or Smart & Final, and freeze what you don’t use right away. I can usually get a package that size for about $2.00.
QUESO FRESCO OR SHREDDED MEXICAN CHEESE. I rarely see Queso Fresco on sale, and the smaller packages of shredded cheese are far too expensive at the supermarket. If you want queso, purchase multi-packs at warehouse stores like Costco. If you want pre-shredded cheese, you can purchase larger bags of and get a much better deal at either Costco or Smart & Final. The shredded cheese lasts a long time in the refrigerator (check the expiration date), but you can always freeze any extra you won’t use right away.
GREEN CHILES: The cans of diced chiles can be quite expensive if you don’t watch it, but you can usually get Mexican food supplies on sale before Cinco de Mayo and New Years Day. If you prefer to use fresh chiles, I recommend either New Mexico chiles (also known as Anaheims) or Poblanos, seeded. They are in season during the summer, so that’s the best time to get a good deal on them. If you have a Safeway / Vons / Pavilions near you, sign up for their “Just for You” program – not infrequently, I’ll get special offers for discounts on fresh chile peppers, cilantro, etc. Also keep an eye on prices at Food4Less – especially during the summer, they’ll have really good sale prices on chiles, dried pinto beans, etc.
MEAT: For information how to get good deals on pork shoulder, see here, and for chicken and turkey, see here.
- If you haven’t already done so, shred or dice your pre-cooked meat into small pieces. If you don’t have cooked meat, you can pressure cook a few chicken parts for 6 minutes or turkey legs or a turkey thigh for 25 minutes (both at high pressure, using natural pressure release). If you are looking for the lowest calorie alternative, diced turkey breast is your choice – it has less fat and calories than even chicken or dark meat turkey.
- Add the ground cumin, ground coriander, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, and coarsely ground pepper to the shredded meat. Stir to mix. You can add the coarse kosher salt if you like, but I generally don’t because I find commercial enchilada sauce salty enough.
- Optional: Add roasted garlic and lightly sautéed onions. (If I am using pork, which is a sweet meat, I’ll sometimes cook the onions just to carmelization, since the sweetened taste of caramelized onions works so well with pork.) If you wish to add diced green chiles, either canned, or roasted and diced yourself, you can mix in part or all of the can now as well, depending on how much “heat” you wish to add. (I would recommend seeded New Mexican or Poblano chiles, if you do this yourself). You can also add 1 cup of cooked pinto beans to stretch your enchilada filling, reduce calories, and increase nutritional value.
- Shake the can of enchilada sauce well before opening. Add a small amount, perhaps a ½ cup, to the meat mixture. Stir to coat. Add additional green enchilada sauce, if necessary. You want just enough to coat the filling, season it, and keep it moist, no more. Reserve remainder of can for later use.
- Traditionally, you would prepare the tortillas by dipping them briefly in hot vegetable oil to make them pliable, but this adds a lot of fat and calories. So we’re going to steam them instead. Method 1: Place your tortillas in several stacks on a plate and microwave them on high for 1 minute. Method 2: using no oil, heat a small skillet over a low flame on your stovetop. Put some water in a shallow dish and wash your hands. When the pan has heated up, use your fingers to flick a few drops of water onto the pan surface. Place a tortilla in the skillet, and flick more water drops on top of the tortilla. Wait a few seconds, flip the tortilla, flick more water drops on the top side of the tortilla. Repeat if necessary. Once each tortilla is pliable enough that you can fold it over without it breaking, remove it from the pan with your tongs.
- Most commercially prepared tortillas just won’t hold together well when cooked with any liquid, so we’re going to get around that problem by doubling up on tortillas – 2 tortillas, stacked together, for each enchilada. That way, even when they inevitably absorb some of the sauce, they’ll hold together enough. For each enchilada, place two tortillas together, and place approximately ¼ cup of the enchilada mixture on top.
- Add a sprinkle of shredded cheese to the top of the enchilada filling. You can use either queso fresco or pre-shredded Mexican cheese. Even though the former is more authentic, I prefer to use the latter because it is so finely grated that even small amounts have a greater volume, therefore I use less, and I add fewer calories.
- Fold each side of the tortillas over the enchilada filling, then holding the enchilada closed, turn it over, seam side down. Place the enchiladas, one next to the other, in a small casserole dish. (Try to fill the casserole dish completely. If I have extra room, I’ll make up a few bean and cheese enchiladas to fill up the extra space.)
- Once the casserole dish is filled, pour a small amount of the green sauce over the enchiladas. Don’t empty out the can, don’t put so much the enchiladas are swimming in green soup. However much liquid you put in the casserole, the tortillas will absorb all of it, become mushy in the process (and likely, too salty to boot). Just pour enough green sauce on top of the enchiladas to coat them lightly, flavor them, and keep them from drying out. Put the rest of the sauce aside for later use.
- Sprinkle a modest amount of cheese on top of the enchiladas. (This is what I like about the shredded Mexican cheese, its so finely shredded, it looks like more than it really is, so I use less of it than I otherwise would.) Sprinkle a little bit of the enchilada sauce on top of the cheese, especially at the corners of the pan and the edges of the enchiladas where the cheese might brown too much.
- Bake the enchiladas in a 350° F oven (175° C) for 30 minutes until the enchiladas are heated through and the cheese has melted. If using a pyrex or glass dish, reduce the temperature to 325° F (160° C). If you have a convection oven, even better, turn the convection on, and bake the enchiladas at 300° F (150° C).
- When the enchiladas have finished cooking and are ready to serve, place the remaining green sauce and a small amount of cheese in a small saucepan and heat to warm the sauce and melt the cheese. For each person, pour a modest amount of the cheesy sauce into a pool on the plate.
- When you’re ready to serve, and not before, use your spatula edge to cut between the servings of enchiladas and separate them. Place 1 or 2 enchiladas on top of the heated sauce. If you plate the enchiladas too soon, they’ll become cold much quicker, and even worse, the tortillas will absorb the green sauce. If you wait until right before service, there will be a nice pool of lovely enchilada sauce. Optionally, you can garnish with a little Mexican crema or chopped cilantro.
SERVING TIP: Green enchiladas are one of the mildest ways of introducing Mexican cuisine to younger children, but remember, even then, the food may be much spicier to them than it is to you. Years ago, I read in a science magazine that people’s sense of taste peaks at age 8, and declines slightly every year thereafter as taste buds die and aren’t replaced. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to meet your need for Mexican food, and still make it palatable to younger children: serve it with a glass of milk and a small dollop of sour cream. Dairy products help neutralize spicy food: the casein in the milk attaches to the capsaicin that makes chiles spicy, and prevents it from registering on the taste buds. So both those who like it a little hotter and those with more sensitive palates can be happy and share the same meal.
- 2 cups shredded pork shoulder/chicken/turkey
- 1 – 28 ounce (794 grams) can green enchilada sauce
- 16 corn tortillas
- 1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
- 1 teaspoon Ground Coriander
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon coarse kosher salt (optional)
- ¼ teaspoon coarse ground pepper
- 1 4 or 7 oz (113 / 198 g) can diced green chiles (optional)
- 1 teaspoon roasted garlic (optional)
- ¼ cup sautéed onions (optional)
- 1 cup pre-cooked pinto beans (optional)
- Package of queso fresco or shredded Mexican cheese
- Mexican crema or cilantro leaf, for garnish (optional)
- Shred or dice your pre-cooked meat into small pieces to make 2 cups. If you only have uncooked meat, you can pressure cook a few chicken parts for 6 minutes or turkey legs or a turkey thigh for 25 minutes (both at high pressure, using natural pressure release). Turkey breast is the lowest calorie and lowest fat option.
- Add the ground coriander, ground cumin, onion and garlic powders, red pepper flakes, and pepper to the meat. Stir to mix. You can add the optional coarse kosher salt, if desired.
- Optional: Add the roasted garlic and sautéed onions to the enchilada mixture. If you wish to add diced green chiles, you can mix them in to taste now as well. (I would recommend seeded New Mexican (Anaheim) or Poblano chiles, if you do this yourself). You can also add 1 cup of cooked pinto beans to stretch your enchilada filling, reduce calories, and increase nutritional content.
- Shake the can of sauce thoroughly and open. Add small amounts at a time to the meat, and stir to coat. You want to use just enough enchilada sauce to coat and season the mixture and keep it moist, and no more. Reserve remainder of can for later use.
- Traditionally, the tortillas are dipped briefly in hot oil to make them flexible, but that adds lots of calories and fat, so we'll steam ours instead instead. Method 1: Place the tortillas on a plate in several stacks and microwave them on high for 1 minute. Method 2: over a low flame, heat a small skillet. Wash your hands and add some water to a shallow dish. When the pan is hot, use your fingertips to flick drops of water onto the skillet surface, and immediately drop a tortilla on top. Flick a few more water drops on top of the tortilla. Wait a few moments, flip, and flick more water. Repeat as needed until each tortilla is pliable and can be folded in half without breaking or tearing.
- Most tortillas fall apart when cooked with any liquid, so we're going to resolve the problem by using two tortillas per enchilada, stacked together. Together, they'll hold up much better, even when baked in enchilada sauce. Place approximately ¼ cup of enchilada filling on top of each pair of tortillas.
- Sprinkle a modest amount of either queso fresco or shredded Mexican cheese on top of the enchiladas. Even though queso is more authentic, I prefer to use the latter because its so finely shredded and has such volume, I use less, adding fewer calories.
- Fold both sides of the enchiladas over the filling, and holding it closed, turn it seam side down. Place the enchiladas in a small casserole dish, one right next to the next. (Try to fill the dish entirely. Its better to have to squeeze enchiladas into the pan than to have empty space.)
- Once the enchiladas are prepared, pour a little sauce over them: just enough to cover them and keep the enchiladas from drying out, no more. Don't use the whole can, don't use so much sauce the enchiladas are bathed in it. However much liquid you put in the casserole, the tortillas will absorb most of it, becoming mush in the process (and probably, very salty). Put the rest of the sauce aside for later use.
- Sprinkle enough cheese on top of the sauced enchiladas to thinly coat. Sprinkle just a bit of the green sauce on top of the cheese, especially at the edges of the enchiladas and the corners of the pans where the cheese might brown too much.
- Bake the enchiladas in a 350° F oven (175° C) for 30 minutes until the enchiladas are heated through and the cheese has melted. If using a glass dish, reduce the temperature to 325° F (160° C). If you have a convection oven, even better, bake the enchiladas at 300° F (150° C).
- When the enchiladas are ready, place the remaining enchilada sauce and a small amount of cheese in a small saucepan and heat. For each person, pour a modest pool of sauce onto each plate, enough to cover half or less of it.
- Wait until immediately before service to plate up the enchiladas – if do it too soon the enchiladas will lose warmth and absorb all the sauce. Use the tip of your spatula to separate the enchilada servings. Place the enchiladas on top of the cheesy green sauce. Garnish with a little Mexican crema or chopped cilantro leaves, if desired.